Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with leading you on a meandering tour of the virtual garden of delights and curiosities and thoughts that make up my world – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words.
G is for…
Galenical: a medicine prepared by extracting one of more active constituents of a plant; herb or other vegetable drug, distinguished from a mineral or chemical drug; a tincture, or decoction, as distinguished from a preparation that has been refined
The word is derived from Galen was a 2nd century Greek physician and philosopher whose work greatly influenced Western medical theory from the Middle Ages through the 17th century.
While I’m certainly not a trained herbalist, I do work with herbs, and am endlessly fascinated by them. As is my way, I often commit to studying a plant for a lengthy period of time, usually over the course of a year or more, during which time I keep a journal dedicated to the subject. Just like with all good relationships, I believe we need to devote time and energy to listening, and developing and then deepening our understanding. Currently I’m working with Damiana, which I’ve come to love.
But today’s word, also reminds me that I want to mention a charming little treasure – Maia Toll’s book The Illuminated Herbiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Bewitching Botanicals.
By Maia’s own definition an herbiary is “ a collection of short writings about botanicals: medicinal, decorative, and whimsical. Although it alludes to healing properties, it was never meant to be prescriptive. Many observations are quite accurate, but they should not be seen as superior to creative or fanciful descriptions and symbolic flights of fancy. A great deal of its charm comes from the depth and creativity of its illustrations, allowing us to see what otherwise would remain hidden.”
I think that’s an absolutely perfect description of what she’s attempted and accomplished with this book. I find it simply delightful, and if the description appeals to you, you might want to add it to your to-read list. It’s lovely and conversational, with wonderful illustrations, and short little glimpses into 36 botanicals. Little rituals and suggestions for reflections are offered for each as well. Also included with the book is a set of 36 oracle cards, one for each of the botanicals covered.
In keeping with my practice of awarding a rating based on floriography, the language of flowers, giving a hint at the plot as well as my appraisal, I would offer a nosegay of White Mulberry (wisdom); Dandelion (oracle) and Forget-Me-Not (true love).
To finish up, let me share a bit of wisdom from Plato that seems especially apt in these times: “Just as bees make honey from thyme, the strongest and driest of herbs, so do the wise profit from the most difficult of experiences.”
So tell me – what’s your favorite herb? Have a plant book to recommend? Keep journals as you study things? Do tell – you know I love to hear.
My favourite herb – by a country mile – is rosemary because it is so delicious with pork and with grilled eggplant or yam and with a glass or four of Cabernet Franc.
Rosemary is lovely and quite a culinary workhorse, and I always think of the saying “rosemary is for remembrance.” Thanks for stopping by Rich.
I’ve never really thought of my favorite herb. I’ll go with rosemary too since I like the name. “A Modern Herbal” by Maud (Margaret) Grieve is interesting to me because she shares my name, and may be some kind of relative. Plus, I like old books. Herbs were mostly what they had for medicine in her time.
I like “A Modern Herbal” as well Margaret, and how fun she shares your name, and possibly a relationship.
As a homoeopath, you may surmise I am loving this post! Whilst the medicines we use are ‘potentised’, a mother tincture is required from which to build that potency. I have had cause only once to ever prescribe Damiana; to a young fellow who was experiencing a deal of ..”performance” anxiety. Did the trick!
To say I have a favourite would not be fair. Each has such qualities that make it the favourite in the correct conditions… but if I was to pick one to spread around the world right now, it might be Silica and at a very high potency; for immunity but also to release the ‘high stringing’. Followed up by a healthy dosing of Bach Flower; Ignatia, for the angst and grief… YAM xx
It’s so true – asking for a favorite is hardly fair. I’m always interested in hearing what folks would prescribe/suggest. I’m finding, as a flower essence practitioner, a combination of yarrows – yellow, white, and pink – are showing up in service to a lot of people at this time.
I use a lot of coriander and mint in my cooking so by the token, those are my favourite herbs.
But, touching and smelling rosemary, sage and thyme–especially lemon thyme is just divine.
Plato’s words are perfect for these times. And I’d love to leaf through Maia Toll’s beautiful book.
Lovely choices Arti. I love coriander. I’ve got some lemon mint planted near my back gate, and the path there is narrow so whenever I pass I manage to brush against it and get a hint of the lovely scent.
I like rosemary and lavender fresh herbs. My A2Z is on essential oils this month so I’m learning about many herbs, trees, etc. that yield them. One of my favorite essential oils is geranium. Mixing geranium, bergamot, and peppermint oils for the diffuser is a truly heavenly aroma.
Rose Geranium and Rosemary essential oils make a lovely diffusing combo as well. So many lovely oils, so many wonderful scents!
I have an on and off again love affair with herbs. I currently am growing Rosemary, Sage, Mint and parsley. I’ve always had the best luck with Rosemary. Weekends In Maine
I seem to have luck with Rosemary as well, and bonus points because it’s lovely to look at too.
Hi Deborah – you certainly have a love of herbs … and I was fascinated that you keep a record for a year or so, possibly more for some, or repeat some years hence about each herb you study.
I rely on two books that I’ve had for decades … ‘The Herbal of the Count Palatine’ by CJ Trew – which has been brought out by Elizabeth Blackwell and Georg Dionyusius Ehret – where it’s titled an 18th C Herbal with over 100 full-colour illustrations …. so informative.
Then my second is a ‘A Country Herbal’ by Lesley Gordon – this one is wonderful too – lots of history and some early recipes …
Love my herbal books!! So always enjoy reading your posts – take care and all the best – Hilary
I don’t know either of the books you’ve mentioned Hilary – they sound wonderful.
I certainly do love botanicals of all sort. And I like immersive study, so devoting a significant time to discovering and learning about a single plant at a time feels like a delicious thing to me. It’s like starting any meaningful relationship – it requires time and dedication, but there is always so much to receive in return.